Ongoing and looming global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have brought renewed attention to the delivery of global public goods (GPGs)—goods that benefit the entire world and can only be provided through cooperation between countries, like public health, climate action, and peace and security. At the same time, it has become clear that strong international cooperation will be required to solve challenges associated with preparing for or mitigating these crises. Yet, making progress on this front is proving to be challenging in the face of recent developments that complicate international collective action problems, including the rise of nationalist sentiment, eroding trust in multilateral institutions, and geopolitics. As a result, the global political and economic system has yet to deliver at the scale needed on critical global public goods such as public health, climate action, sustainable development, and peace, as noted by the UN Secretary General.
In addition to international cooperation, national and local actions will be needed to mitigate threats from inadequate delivery of many GPGs. As highlighted by the 2018 Report of the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, solving one single threat may require producing several transnational and local public goods. Unlike local public goods, the costs of providing global public goods cannot be expected to be borne by any single country; hence the growing need for, and interest in, developing mechanisms for collaboration within countries to enhance country contributions to GPGs.
Redefining the role of country platforms
In a newly published CGD policy paper, we identify a variety of potential requirements for country platforms to facilitate effective delivery of GPGs. Country platforms are coordinating mechanisms—often composed of several working and steering groups—for government officials and development actors to agree on shared priorities.
First, we propose that existing country platforms be repurposed to coordinate the contribution of domestic and external stakeholders to GPG delivery efforts at the country level. For this proposed approach to be successful, we believe that the following innovations may need to be considered in designing new country platforms or redesigning existing ones:
- Shifting the focus to GPG delivery, rather than aid coordination;
- Linking explicitly country-level efforts to global initiatives to provide GPGs;
- Developing an accountability framework at both the country and global level to help meet global delivery goals.
Second, we propose setting up country and global coordination mechanisms, with relevant agencies assigned to operate them both at the national and international levels. Using relevant country platforms, international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the IMF and multilateral development banks (MDBs) should be mandated with helping developing countries meet the financing needs associated with the provision of GPGs. For instance, a global resilience fund could be established at the IMF to support climate GPGs, creating a pathway for vulnerable countries to mobilize financial support for their energy transition efforts under the Paris and Glasgow agreements.
Third, we suggest that technical support from the IFIs be put on the table to improve the effectiveness of developing countries’ contribution to GPG delivery. In this regard, MDBs can and must play a central role in developing capacities in these countries as part of their own contribution to GPG delivery. We believe that the global community should assign a strong GPG delivery mandate to multilateral institutions, while defining a clear division of responsibilities among them based on their specific expertise and core areas of competence. For instance, an obvious choice may consist in mandating MDBs to coordinate technical assistance and the IMF to help mobilize and allocate funding for GPG delivery, including through its catalytic role.
The main challenge is to ensure adequate alignment and coherence between global and local partnerships aimed at delivering GPGs. Consistent with our proposal, a global coordinating agency preferably under the auspices of the United Nations with the assistance of the IFIs should be designated and tasked with linking explicitly country-level efforts to global net-zero initiatives. Key among the responsibilities of this coordinator would be make sure that public and private finance mobilized as part of net-zero initiatives ultimately benefits developing and emerging countries in a timely manner. This reinforces our call for the need to embed these initiatives into an appropriate framework that guarantees accountability at the national and international levels.
The importance of private sector involvement
Besides IFIs, it would be essential to lay the foundations for the private sector to contribute to GPG delivery efforts. Private sector representatives should be invited to be active participants of relevant country platforms. At the global level, there has already been welcome initiatives to coordinate the private sector’s efforts to achieve the Paris and Glasgow Agreement goals, including the establishment of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) by the United Nations and the COP26 presidency. As part of GFANZ, over 160 firms with $70 trillion in assets have committed to steer the global economy towards net-zero emissions. This includes mobilizing capital to finance decarbonization in emerging and developing countries.
However, private sector participation in country platforms raises several challenging issues that need to be addressed. These include not only the practical challenges related to the inclusion and the representation of private sector representatives within the platform, but also the potential constraints to their effective involvement and concerns about giving the private sector a role in public finance decisions. Still, overcoming these challenges is critical to allow the private sector to play a positive role in the delivery of GPGs, including through investment decisions.
Clearly, country platforms can be useful in helping define shared priorities and a pathway for achieving common objectives in developing countries. While sustaining headways in this direction, the global community should also put them to work for the global good by tapping on their potential to boost the provision of GPGs. A good starting point would be to refocus them on this purpose and ensure that they are appropriately inclusive.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.